With the holiday season right around the corner, shoppers are prepping by making lists, formulating gameplans, and looking for the best deals in town.
As a business owner, your preparation likely looks a little different, maybe something more like advertising plans, sale signs and holiday events. Ultimately, your focus is on filling a need – be it supplying a shopper with the perfect gift, filling your tables with hungry patrons or playing Santa’s helper.
To help you usher in the start of holiday shopping season, Small Business Saturday® is all about supporting local merchants by, you guessed it, shopping local.
IDEAS FOR MAKING THE MOST OF SMALL BUSINESS SATURDAY
From a regular Small Business Saturday® participant, here are 5 ways to make the most of it and appeal to customers.
- Tell your story. Customers shop local to support local, so help them see how you support your community year-round. Consider sharing your business origin story or highlighting the ways you give back. Don’t be afraid to get personal.
- Spread the word. Take advantage of every avenue available to showcase your location, hours, etc., including these materials available to you from Shop Small®. Increase your number of posts on social media and create a Facebook event to garner interest and stay top of mind. Send out a customer e-newsletter, utilize in-store flyers and check with local media to see if there’s a Small Business Saturday segment you can get in on.
- Partner up. Give customers an easy opportunity to support other local businesses by partnering with your neighbors. Run a joint promotion or consider handing out coupons for their store – and having them do the same.
- Highlight what you have to offer. As a local shop, your products are likely to be more diverse than those of big box stores, so tout them. Make the most of window displays and front tables by showcasing your unique offerings. That goes for restaurants, too! Bust out the sandwich board, show shoppers your grab-and-go offerings and of course, beverage specials. That mid-day pick-me-up is mandatory on big shopping days!
- Check-in with your local insurance agent. Small Business Saturday has the potential to be a busy – and profitable – day for you. Think about a quick chat with your local Erie Insurance agent before the busy shopping season to make sure you’re covered for whatever comes your way.
Protect Your Business Year-Round
While these tips are all about capitalizing on Small Business Saturday, they don’t expire when the clock strikes midnight, much like the advice and support your ERIE agent provides. Make sure your business insurance needs are met by talking to your agent today.
Posted on 27 September 2022 | 9:00 pm
As a business owner, you’ve probably heard a lot about cyber attacks when a large corporation makes headline news for a massive data breach. It’s no wonder business owners have a touch of cyber anxiety in today’s times, when so many aspects of your day-to-day work—from banking and payment processing to email and customer databases—rely on the internet. And the truth is, there’s good reason to feel that way because businesses of all sizes are at risk.
According to Forbes, 43% of cyber attacks are aimed at small businesses. And 61% of all small businesses reported at least one attempted cyber attack during the previous year!
“These days, everyone is a target for cyber attacks—including individuals and small businesses,” said Jamie Neumaier, corporate information security officer at Erie Insurance. “One reason small- and medium-sized businesses are frequently targeted is because they don’t have the same technology resources as a large corporation. Not only does this make them an easier target, but attacks on small businesses often go unnoticed by the public because they aren’t heavily publicized.”
However, it’s not all doom and gloom. A little bit of prevention can go a long way in protecting your business from cyber attacks. Ready to protect your business data? Here are six things you can do right now to help prevent cyber attacks.
1. Implement a Strong Password Policy
When it comes to cyber security, passwords are the first line of defense. Nearly every online service requires users to log in with an ID and password. And all too often, these user-generated passwords can be laughably easy to crack.
Case in point: The password management company, NordPass, reports that “123456” continues to rank as the top password used across the world (with favorites like “password” and “qwerty” rounding out the top five).
“People typically pick passwords that are easy to guess, then reuse them across multiple accounts,” said Neumaier. “To reduce the risk of cyber attacks, you should select a complex password – and be sure to use a unique password for every account.”
Here are a few guidelines to consider when generating a strong password, courtesy of Google:
- Make it long: Longer passwords are harder to guess, so experts recommend using a password with at least 12 characters that includes a combination of letters, numbers and symbols.
- Don’t use personal information: Avoid using personal information like your street name, birthday or children’s names. This information can be easily found through public databases or your social media profiles.
- Avoid common words: Words or patterns like “password” or “1234” should never be used in your password.
- Don’t write it down: Generating multiple strong passwords can make remembering them a challenge. But avoid the temptation to write down your passwords. Instead, use an online password manager tool to safely store your information.
After creating a unique strong password for each of your business accounts, make it a company policy that all your employees do the same. This can be tricky for your employees to keep track of and one way to help is by utilizing a password vault: a software program that keeps a number of passwords in a secure digital location.
2. Enable Multi-factor Authentication
After you select a strong password, the next step to improving cyber security is enabling multi-factor authentication. And while this phrase may sound complex, the concept is quite simple.
When it comes to using technology, “authentication” is simply a way to prove that you are who you say you are. So your password, for example, is a form of authentication. When you enable multi-factor authentication (sometimes called “two-step verification”), you’re requesting that a service uses more than one method of authentication to verify your identity.
According to Microsoft, the most common authentication factors fall into these categories:
- Something you know. This can include passwords, security questions or a memorized PIN number.
- Something you have. An online service may send a verification code or link to your smartphone using text message or email.
- Something you are. Think fingerprints or facial recognition.
“The combination of a strong password and multi-factor authentication is one of the best ways to prevent any cyber risk,” said Neumaier. “For that reason, you should enable multi-factor authentication wherever possible – especially when a service is connected to your financial accounts.”
3. Buy a Cyber Insurance Policy
No matter the size of your business, keeping your financial, employee and customer data safe from cyber attacks should be a top priority. But while 83% of small and medium-sized businesses say they’re not financially prepared to recover from a cyber attack, Forbes reports that 91% have not purchased cyber liability insurance.
“Every small business should consider cyber insurance as part of their plan to manage the risk of attacks,” said Neumaier. “At ERIE, our coverage not only provides the financial resources to help in the event of a data breach; We also educate businesses on best practices to prevent attacks in the first place.”
With Cyber Suite from ERIE1, you’ll be prepared to respond to a wide range of cyber incidents – including breaches of personally identifying or sensitive information and threats that could jeopardize the safety of that information.
This includes coverage for covered events such as data breaches, computer fraud and attacks, cyber extortion, misdirected payment fraud and telecommunications fraud. And as an added bonus, you’ll have access to a team of cyber professionals experienced in handling these types of claims.
Your agent will have more information about the benefits of this important coverage, which is just one reason why it’s beneficial to have a local Erie Insurance agent.
4. Back Up Your Data
In the course of running your business, you generate a lot of information that would be difficult – or impossible – to replace. From customer files to accounting information, it’s critical for businesses of all sizes to have backup data readily available.
“Whether you choose a cloud or physical backup solution, the goal is to have ready access to your data so you can continue operations if your system is ever compromised,” Neumaier explained. “It’s also important to periodically test your backups to ensure you can actually recover files, if needed.”
Backing up your data will help protect you from one of the biggest costs of a cyber attack – business downtime. According to a study by CISCO, 40% of small businesses that faced a cyber attack experienced eight hours of downtime or more.
5. Update Your Devices
We’re all familiar with how it can feel when your computer, smartphone, apps and software programs are reminding you it’s time for another update. But did you know that clicking “remind me later” is leaving you vulnerable to cyber attacks?
The truth is, many of these updates are actually fixes for security vulnerabilities that have been uncovered within a given system and sometimes they are being used right then to attack people and their devices. For that reason, it’s important to keep all of your equipment up to date.
“Updating the software on all of your devices is essential to protecting your business data,” said Neumaier. “So enable automatic device updates whenever you have the option.”
Whether it’s cyber extortion, phishing, ransomware, malware or account hacking, cyber criminals are constantly finding new ways to make money. Updating your devices means that you’ll be protected as soon as tech companies identify and fix new vulnerabilities.
6. Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN)
When accessing the internet, a virtual private network (VPN) offers an added layer of protection and security. And it’s especially important if you, or any of your employees, will be doing business remotely from a public Wi-Fi network.
Some benefits of using a VPN are that it masks the IP address of your device (this is a series of numbers that identifies your computer or smartphone) and helps keep your data “unseen” when using an untrusted internet connection – like the public Wi-Fi at your favorite local coffee shop. To accomplish this, VPN software encrypts your data and routes it through secure servers located in distant places. The result: Anonymous internet browsing that protects your device from hackers.
“Business VPN software is a great solution for remote workers, especially if they need to connect to sensitive information on your business network,” said Neumaier.
There are a variety of different VPN services available to small businesses, many of which start at less than $20 a month.
Protect Your Business from Cyber Attacks Today
You’ve invested a lot into building your business. At ERIE, it’s our job to help you protect it if something does go wrong.
With Cyber Suite from ERIE, you’ll have the coverage your business needs in case it’s the target of a cyber attack. 1 Talk to an ERIE agent today about Cyber Suite and get a no-obligation quote for adding it to your business policy.
1Cyber Suite is only available to Customers with an ErieSecure Business® policy. Cyber Suite coverage and associated services reinsured under an arrangement with the Hartford Steam Boiler (Home Office: Hartford, Connecticut). © 2021 The Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company (“HSB”). All rights reserved. This document is intended for informational purposes only and does not modify or invalidate any of the terms or conditions of the policy and endorsements. For specific terms and conditions, please refer to the coverage form. Coverage not available in New York.
Posted on 26 September 2022 | 9:00 pm
There’s nothing quite like the view of colorful leaves in autumn. But what do you do when they’ve all fallen and you’re left with a mess in your yard? Winter is quickly approaching, so it’s important to dispose of the leaves before the snow comes. But how can you do so safely (and legally)? Here’s what to know.
CAN I BURN THE LEAVES?
While many local governments are banning leaves and other yard trimmings from landfills, you may be tempted to burn the leaves in your yard. Leaf burning, however, becomes a fire hazard that can lead to air pollution and health problems. Burning leaves is not recommended by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)—nor is it legal in most states. The open burning of leaves produces toxic compounds like carbon monoxide.
CAN I PUT THE LEAVES IN TRASH BAGS?
If you’ve got a lot of time and a strong back (who has either, right?), bagging leaves is one option. But remember, sticks, rocks, pinecones, limbs and other debris should not be mixed with loose leaves. Also, check with your municipality or borough to see what, if any, weight limit or bag color has been specified for leaf-filled bags, Then, when they’re ready to go, put them at the curb on your regular trash collection day or as directed.
WHAT IS COMPOSTING AND HOW CAN I DO IT?
Composting is an environmentally friendly form of recycling that helps soil retain moisture and nutrients and increase fertility. When leaves are composted along with nitrogen-filled grass clippings, the resulting compost becomes organic fertilizer or mulch for flowerbeds, gardens or around shrubs. The EPA’s Web site offers a free detailed guide on how to create your own compost pile in your backyard. The most important thing to note is what can and cannot be composted. Stay away from meat trimmings and bones—they may attract pests.
Here are a few different ways to compost:
- Make your own compost bin. This is a simple and cost-effective way to make a difference for the good of the environment.
- Mulching is a great way to add nutrients to your garden and put those leaves to good use in natures cycle. You can use a chipper to turn clean leaves or brush into mulch.
- Find out if your community offers leaf collection or wood waste removal. Laws for leaf disposal vary depending on where you live. Visit your city’s website or call your local public works department for more information.
LOOKING AFTER YOU
Planning is smart, but life is always changing – just like the seasons. For whatever’s in store, we’re with you on the journey. Call an insurance professional like a local ERIE agent about insuring your home.
Posted on 19 September 2022 | 9:00 pm
If you own a commercial property, then landscaping is a part of doing business – whether you like it or not.
To help take one more thing off your plate (and help boost your curb appeal in the process), consider hiring a commercial landscape contractor. But how do you choose the right contractor? And what services do you really need?
To help find the best lawn-care solution for you, here are some simple business landscaping tips.
What is included in commercial landscaping?
When you choose a landscape contractor, it’s important to know that there’s no one-size-fits-all plan. The services you choose should be tailored to the unique needs of your property. Here are some jobs you may want to consider.
- Mowing: Regularly mowing the lawn on your property is often the foundation of a landscape maintenance contract. This also includes trimming weeds and edging around the driveway and sidewalks.
- Turf care: Want to keep your grass looking green and healthy? A landscaper can create the right combination of services such as seeding, fertilizer, aeration and weed control to improve the look of your lawn.
- Landscape enhancements: If you want to boost your curb appeal, a landscaper can help. Services range from mulching and planting flowers to more in-depth designs such as installing water features, paver patios or retaining walls.
- Snow removal: If you live in an area that snows in the winter, your landscape contractor will likely offer snow removal for driveways and parking lots.
Do I need seasonal landscape services?
In addition to a regular maintenance contract, you may want to consider adding more services based on the season.
- Spring landscape maintenance. Spring cleanup can include removing any downed tree branches, pruning flowers and getting rid of old mulch. It’s also a good time to fertilize your grass and address any weak or dead spots.
- Summer landscape maintenance. During the summer months, you may want a landscaper to trim hedges, weed flower beds and address any insect or disease damage to your plants.
- Fall landscape maintenance. Depending on how many trees are on or near your property, you may want a landscaper to handle leaf cleanup and removal. Fall cleanup is also a great time to cut back perennial plants and fertilize your grass.
- Winter landscape maintenance. In warmer climates, your lawn may benefit from winter fertilization. In colder climates, you’ll save time (and your back) by letting your landscaper handle snow removal.
How should I choose a landscaper for my business?
Looking for a landscape contractor? Here’s how you can find the perfect match for your business.
- Know your needs. Before you contact a landscape contractor, have an understanding of the services you want. Some commercial landscapers may only provide lawn care, while others can provide everything listed above. Clearly articulate what you want – and what you don’t – when getting a quote.
- Check credentials. In the landscaping industry, there are a number of qualifications, certifications and licenses that may be required – especially if pesticides or herbicides are being used. Ask about your landscaper’s certifications and make sure they’re appropriately licensed and insured. You may also want to ask for contact information from a few other business clients so you can check references.
- Get multiple quotes. It never hurts to get competitive quotes from two or three companies before settling on a landscaper for your property. Commercial landscaping costs often can be more varied than residential, so securing several quotes can help you weed out unreasonable estimates.
- Choose the best value. After receiving quotes, select the landscaper you feel will provide the best value. And keep in mind, that doesn’t always mean choosing the company with the lowest quote. A low-cost landscaper may also bring less experience or resources to the table. Reliability and a proven track record in the commercial landscaping arena should weigh heavily in your decision-making.
- Get it in writing. Never agree to a landscaping service without a signed contract that outlines timelines, frequency, costs, services and expectations. This will ensure both you and the landscaper are on the same page and provide documentation should services not meet your expectations.
How much does commercial landscaping cost?
It’s hard to estimate exactly how much you’ll pay for commercial landscaping. That’s because your cost will depend on a number of factors, including the size of your property and the services provided. According to HomeAdvisor, a basic grass-cutting service can range between $30 to $80 per visit, while more comprehensive lawn-maintenance contracts can cost anywhere from $120 to $430 per visit.
What are the benefits of good commercial landscaping?
We know you’re probably capable of cutting your own grass. But here are some benefits of hiring a professional landscaping contractor.
- Look professional and reputable. The outside of your property is the first impression customers will get of your business. Good landscaping boosts the aesthetic appearance, providing a more professional look and feel. And who knows? It may even attract a few new customers.
- Save time. As a business owner, you already juggle what feels like a million different commitments. Leaving the landscaping to a professional allows you to focus on the most important parts of building your business while ensuring your property looks great week after week.
- Improve property values. According to a recent study published in the Journal of Real Estate Finance and Economics, homes with high curb appeal tend to sell for an average of 7% more than similar properties with a less-than-inviting exterior. And the same principle applies to commercial buildings. So keep in mind that there’s also an economic return on your landscaping investment.
- Create more usable space.
The Covid-19 pandemic has made outdoor spaces more important than ever. A welcoming landscape with patio tables, benches and other seating areas could provide great additional meeting spaces for employees and customers alike.
A partner you can trust.
Your business deserves great protection from a company you can trust. At Erie Insurance, our business insurance policies are designed around your specific needs – helping you safeguard the business you’ve worked so hard to build. To learn more, contact your local ERIE agent for a no-obligation quote.
Posted on 15 September 2022 | 9:00 pm
There was once a time when roundabouts were all but absent from American roadways. But over the past decade or so, these circular intersections have seemed to pop up everywhere, from small rural towns to bustling urban centers.
This has left many drivers wondering: why are there so many new roundabouts, and why are they replacing tried-and-true stoplights?
To help answer these questions—and more—here’s everything you’ve ever wondered about roundabouts.
What Is a Roundabout?
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, a roundabout is a type of intersection that is specifically designed to help control the flow of traffic. It features a circular roadway that goes around a raised central island. Roundabouts are engineered to allow for a smooth, constant flow of traffic from all directions. This makes them different from traffic circles, which are circular intersections that require drivers to stop before entering.
How Do Roundabouts Work?
If you’ve ever wondered about how to drive in a roundabout, you’re not alone. Let’s look at a basic overview of how roundabouts work. Drivers enter the intersection by first navigating a gentle curve. After yielding to traffic already in the roundabout, they enter the circle. Then, they drive around the circle in a counterclockwise direction until exiting at their desired roadway. When using a roundabout you should try to enter and exit the intersection without coming to a complete stop.
Who Has the Right-of-Way in a Roundabout?
If you’re unfamiliar with roundabouts, it can be confusing to determine who must yield. (Case in point: remember that scene from National Lampoon's European Vacation where Clark Griswold gets trapped in a British roundabout for hours?) But the rule for determining right-of-way in a roundabout is actually pretty simple: the vehicle entering the roundabout should always yield to cars that are already in the circle. To show where entry to the circle begins, most modern roundabouts feature a dotted yield line at each entry point.
Who Invented the Roundabout?
The origins of the roundabout aren’t as simple as you may think. That’s because circular junction intersections have been around for centuries—long before motor vehicle traffic was ever a consideration. For example, the Place Charles de Gaulle (or Place de l'Étoile, for you French speakers) surrounding the famed Arc de Triomphe in Paris, France, dates back to 1780. The first modern traffic circle is said to have been constructed in Germany in 1899. And the first roundabout on American soil was Columbus Circle, in New York City, designed by William Phelps Eno in 1905.
Are Roundabouts Safer Than Other Intersections?
In short, yes. The reason more roundabouts are starting to appear across the United States is because they’re proven to be significantly safer than standard intersections that rely on stop signs or traffic lights. However, it’s worth stating that in instances with highly variable flow and speed limits, traffic lights are still safer.
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), studies show that intersections in the U.S. that have been converted from traffic signals or stop signs to roundabouts have reduced injury crashes up to 80 percent, with a total crash reduction of up to 47 percent. There are several reasons for this:
- Speed: The circular design of a roundabout requires vehicles to reduce their speeds to successfully navigate through the intersection. Because these geometric features generally limit vehicle speeds to less than 20 miles per hour, data shows that roundabouts can reduce both the frequency and severity of collisions.
- Direction: Once drivers enter a roundabout, every vehicle in the intersection is traveling in the same direction. This design vastly reduces the number of dangerous head-on and right-angle (or T-bone) collisions, which can be especially dangerous to drivers.
- Conflict points: In transportation planning lingo, a “conflict point” refers to a spot where two vehicles could potentially collide at an intersection. A simple “T” intersection between two single-lane roads has a total of 32 conflict points. Replace that intersection with a roundabout and the number drops to 8—that’s a 75 percent reduction! Less conflict points means less opportunities for collisions.
- Pedestrians: Roundabouts also have safety benefits for pedestrians and cyclists crossing the intersection. This is due to the lower speeds of the vehicles, and to the fact that traffic is only coming from one direction.
Why Are More Cities Installing Roundabouts?
In addition to the safety features mentioned above, there are other benefits to choosing roundabouts over signaled intersections:
- They improve traffic flow. In a roundabout, traffic is constantly moving from all directions. This design can greatly reduce the backups and delays caused by stop signs and traffic lights.
- They reduce vehicle emissions. In addition to reducing wasted time at intersections, roundabouts have also been proven to lower fuel consumption. Accelerating from a dead stop is one of the least energy-efficient things your vehicle can do, next to sitting idle at a red light, both of which are commonplace at traditional intersections.
- They cost less to maintain. Roundabouts eliminate the need for traffic lights, which are costly to install and maintain over time.
Because of these factors, a 2004 study conducted by the IIHS estimated that converting just 10 percent of the signalized intersections in the U.S. to roundabouts could reduce vehicle delays by more than 981 million hours and lower fuel consumption by more than 654 million gallons in a single year!
How Many Roundabouts Are in the U.S.?
According to the engineering firm Kittelson & Associates, there were about 8,000 roundabouts in the U.S. in 2020. While that number has been steadily increasing over the past decade, the U.S. still lags far behind many other countries in its roundabout use. In America, it’s estimated there is 1 roundabout per every 1,118 intersections. In Great Britain, the ratio drops dramatically to 1 per every 127 intersections. And in France (the country with the most roundabouts in the world), the ratio is 1 roundabout per every 45 intersections.
Full Circle Coverage You Can Rely On
Beginning to end, you have our full attention and tireless efforts. At Erie Insurance, our agents are knowledgeable, caring people you can rely on. Together, we take responsibility for every measure of your satisfaction, from the first question to the final follow-up. To get a free auto insurance quote, talk to your local ERIE agent today.
Posted on 13 September 2022 | 9:00 pm